About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l was an international religious leader, philosopher, and respected moral voice. The author of over 35 books, he received multiple awards in recognition of his work including the 2016 Templeton Prize. He was the recipient of 18 honorary doctorates, and was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. Rabbi Sacks zt”l served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. Rabbi Sacks zt”l was born on the 8th March 1948 and passed away on the 7th November 2020 (Shabbat Kodesh 20th MarCheshvan 5781).

These weekly teachings from Rabbi Sacks zt”l are part of the ‘Covenant & Conversation’ series on the weekly Torah reading. Read more essays from the series on www.rabbisacks.org.

Also available: The FAMILY EDITION of Covenant & Conversation, designed to enhance your parsha conversation with everyone from teenagers to great-great-grandparents. To read and print this family-friendly learning resource, for an inter-generational discussion around your Shabbat table on Rabbi Sacks’ ideas for the week, please click here.

Overcoming Setbacks

At first, Moses’ mission seemed to be successful. He had feared that the people would not...

Women as Leaders

This week’s parsha could be entitled “The Birth of a Leader.” We see Moses,...

Moving Forwards

The book of Bereishit ends on a sublime note of reconciliation between Jacob’s sons....

The Unexpected Leader

I was once present when the great historian of Islam, Bernard Lewis, was asked to predict the...

Three Approaches to Dreams

In one of the greatest transformations in all literature, Joseph moves in a single bound from...

The Power of Praise

Reuben is the leader who might have been but never was. He was Jacob's firstborn. Jacob said of...

Be Thyself

I have often argued that the episode in which the Jewish people acquired its name – when...

Light in Dark Times

To try, to fall, to fear, and yet to keep going: that is what it takes to be a leader.

Isaac and Rebecca: Communication Matters

The consequences of the failure to communicate.

Inspiring Quotes by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

A small selection of meaningful quotes from Rabbi Sacks, of blessed memory.

Beginning the Journey

God promises, but we have to act.

Answering the Call

Abraham was the first great Jewish leader. He took responsibility and didn’t wait for others to act.

The Courage Not to Conform

To be a Jew is to be willing to challenge the prevailing consensus and dare to be different.

The Transformative Power of Ideas

Judaism is a way of understanding the world and contains life-changing ideas.

The Arc of the Moral Universe

In the long run, tyrannies are defeated. Empires decline and fall. Goodness and rightness win the final battle.

How to Renew a Nation

The Talmud gives an ingenious reading to the line, “Moses commanded us a Torah, as a...

Be Silent and Listen

One of the gifts of this strange, difficult time has been the ability to slow down the prayers so that I am able to listen to them speaking to me.

Does Love Conquer All?*

Our parsha contains more laws than any other. Some of them have generated much study and debate,...

A Sage is Greater than a Prophet

In Shoftim, Moses speaks about the great institutions of Judaism: courts, judges, officers, Kings,...

The Good Society

The test of a society is not military, political, economic or demographic. It is moral and spiritual.

The Covenant and the Love

An interesting phrase appears at the end of last week’s parsha and at the beginning of this...

The Infinite Game

The moral life is an infinite game which cannot be reduced to only rules.


In the last month of his life, Moses gathered the people. He instructed them about the laws they...

My Teacher: In Memoriam

There are moments when Divine Providence touches you on the shoulder and makes you see a certain...

The Hidden Meaning of the Bilam Story

Many questions have rightly been asked about the story of Balak and Bilam and the would-be curses...

Moral v. Political Decisions

The coronavirus pandemic raised a series of deep moral and political issues. This week's Torah portion sheds some light.

Kohelet, Tolstoy and the Red Heifer

Death forces us to confront our deepest fears.

How Not to Argue

Korach and the cancel culture.

What Is Going On?

The story we tell affects the decisions we make. Get the story wrong and we can rob an entire generation of their future. Get it right, as did Joshua and Caleb, and we can achieve greatness.

Loneliness and Faith

I have long been intrigued by one passage in this week’s parsha. After a lengthy stay in the...

The Blessing of Love

I confess to a thrill every time I read these words: Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how...

Egalitarian Society, Jewish-Style

The parsha of Bamidbar is generally read on the shabbat before Shavuot, z’man matan...

The Power of a Curse

The book of Vayikra draws to a close by outlining the blessings that will follow if the people are...

Radical Uncertainty

There is something very strange about the festival of Succot, of which our parsha is the primary...

Words That Heal

Fred Rogers and the power of words.

Rabbi Sacks on the Holocaust

Two thought provoking videos on faith after the Holocaust.


There is an order to the universe and we must respect it.

After the Plague: From I to We

The shared hell of WWII changed Britain for the better. Coronavirus will do the same.

Left- and Right-Brain Judaism

The institution of the Haftarah – reading a passage from the prophetic literature alongside...

The Prophetic View of Sacrifice

Sacrifices, the subject of this week’s parsha, were central to the religious life of...

Communities and Crowds

To turn a group of individuals into a covenantal nation, they must build something together.

The Power of Kol Nidrei

Kol Nidrei, the prayer said at the beginning of Yom Kippur, is an enigma wrapped in a mystery,...

Why Harry S. Truman Recognized the State of Israel

Like Eddie Jacobson, God is calling on each of us, saying there is something only we can do.

Dressing to Impress

There is a place for aesthetics and the visual in the life of the spirit.

We Will Do and We Will Hear

Two words we read towards the end of our parsha - naaseh ve-nishma, "We will do and we will...

The Universal and the Particular

The God of Israel is the God of all humankind, even though the religion of Israel is not the religion of all humankind.

Crossing the Sea

Our parsha begins with an apparently simple proposition: When Pharaoh let the people go, God did...

Guardians of the Earth: A Tu B'Shvat Video

Mankind has been given the mandate to use the earth, but not to destroy it.

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